Sunday, 24 June 2012

EIFF 5: Flower power

The EIFF is a rare festival that embraces animated films - it's closing with Pixar's Brave this year - and the programmers have also managed to hold up the release of Dr Seuss' The Lorax in Britain so it can premiere here first. Meanwhile, rainy, grey weather in Edinburgh have sent audiences into cinemas, where they've had a chance to explore films that are far more interesting than the blockbusters showing everywhere else. And festival delegates are a bit tender after last night's high-spirited ceilidh, which was attended by jurors Elliott Gould and Jim Broadbent and featured haggis, fresh Lochfyne oysters, neeps and tatties, whisky and some hilarious moves on the dance floor by delegates struggling to remember the steps.

The Lorax
dir Chris Renaud; voices Danny DeVito, Ed Helms 12/UK **
Dr Seuss' eco-fable is transformed into a raucous adventure comedy in this colourful animated feature. And it's a little embarrassing really. Not only has the story been padded out with lame jokes and unnecessary side plots, but the film's pacing is all over the place, leaving both kids and their parents bored... FULL REVIEW

dir Bryn Higgins; with Christian Cooke, Harry McEntire 12/UK ****
With a break-out performance from rising star McEntire, this engaging but increasingly creepy British drama really gets under the skin as it explores issues of attraction and identity in some pretty challenging ways. In Newcastle, 17-year-old twins Kristen and Harry (Melanie Hill and McEntire) both fall for the charming fast-talker Liam (Cooke), and when Liam latches onto Owen, all three find themselves in a mind-bending situation. The characters are grappling with power, sexuality, gender and desire in startlingly complex ways that get under our skin. Some of the scripting is a bit pushy, and it kind of wallows in Owen's struggle to decide what he wants, but the naturalistic, internalised performances bring it to life, especially as events twist in unexpected directions.

Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal
dir Boris Rodriguez; with Thure Lindhardt, Dylan Smith 11/Can ***.
Only the black senses of humour of both Denmark and Canada could have produced a film like this one, which is so deranged that we feel a bit guilty about laughing at it. The plot is very silly: young, famed painter Lars (Lindhardt) moves to rural Canada to escape the pressure of artists' block. Working in a struggling art college, he's asked to take care of the gentle giant Eddie (Smith), whose nocturnal activities spark Lars' creative juices in increasingly grisly ways. Moral messiness aside, the film is gleefully deranged, never remotely trying to balance the characters with complexity of thought or feeling. But there are some nicely subtle touches about bullying and artistic snobbery. And even if it's ultimately rather slight, it's also hilariously grisly.

Black's Game
dir Oskar Thor Axelsson; with Thorvaldur David Kristjansson, Johannes Haukur Johannesson 11/Ice ***.
Owing rather a lot to Guy Ritchie's flashy, kinetic filmmaking style (specifically Snatch), this black comedy gradually shifts from goofy comedy to very dark drama as it progresses through a story of violence and drugs. At the centre is Stebbi (Kristjansson), a young guy in trouble with the law who is straightened out by his childhood pal Toti (Johannesson), who's now a drug dealer. So "straightened out" perhaps isn't the right term. Together they launch a massive drug import network to challenge the current mob boss, and things get very, very messy. Oddly, the film starts as a freewheeling romp, with Stebbi's ascent into the high life as a dream come true. Director Axelsson stages all of this with energy and style, holding our interest through sheer personality and keeping our sympathies with Stebbi even as things turn intensely nasty.

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